|Release Date:||June 12th, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
The Oxford English dictionary defines a "prototype" as "An original example from which others are developed." Looking at the latest offering from Radical Entertainment, it should have said: Prototype: "Huge amounts of ass-kicking featuring the most tooled-up anti-hero in the history of videogames" because, as the Americans would say, Prototype's dark warrior, Alex Mercer, is an absolute beast.
Awakening in a morgue, the hoody-wearing creature discovers that infection by a mysterious virus has left him with shape-shifting powers, ranging from the ability to morph his arms into blades or chunks of rock to being able to run up buildings, fly, force massive spikes to erupt from the ground, pick up tanks the throw them and, most worryingly of all, absorb any human and gain access to their looks, weapons and memories- simply put, Prototype doesn't do things by halves.
Set in New York City (as most games seem to be) the game centres around Alex's quest to discover what happened, why the infection is spreading across the island, why a military sect known as 'Blackwatch' are killing everybody and why he has no memory of anything that's happened before.
To do this, Alex teams up with his sister, his ex-girlfriend and a military scientist and undertakes missions which gradually unravel the convoluted plot.
Added to the standard advancing nature of the storyline is the game's 'web of intrigue', a network of interlocking memories which have to be unlocked by killing and absorbing their respective owners into Alex's body mass. This is an interesting dynamic and really adds an interesting challenge to the game, especially when the web starts to take shape and certain memories reveal the shadows in Alex's past.
The game itself is a free-roaming blast through the city as it gradually descends into anarchy. The virus, as it spreads, turns more and more of the populace to mindless zombies or the fast and agile 'hunter' mutants, who gestate in the numerous water towers which line the city's rooftops. Starting on day one of the infection, when Alex causes unbridled panic as he parkour's his way down the street, leaping cars with ease, the player witnesses the gradual destruction of the metropolis until entire streets are deserted apart from burnt-out cars and piles of bodies.
As well as the mission objectives, Alex can also partake in numerous side activities such as time trials, races, base-jumping on to targets and taking out a certain number of enemies with a certain ability in a certain time.
Though these minor missions are repetitive, the upgrade points earned through them become essential as the game continues, unlocking even more ramped-up powers for the infected anti-hero. Speaking of powers, unlike the undisciplined horde of infected roaming the street, Alex has ended up with all the power of the virus and still kept his brain.
His morphing ability allows the gamer to deal with each mission a number of ways- if the mission is to demolish a building, Alex could simply hijack a tank or helicopter (having absorbed a pilot to learn how to drive said vehicle first) or he could turn his arms into a pair of massive claws and armour his body with an exoskeleton then go in swinging, or he could absorb the body of a nearby Blackwatch commander and order an airstrike on the site before pointing at a nearby solider and yelling "That's Mercer" and then running up the side of a building to escape over the rooftops- the choices are endless.
However, while Prototype's gameplay and Alex's abilities allow a large variety of ways to approach a problem, the game's insistence on so many powers and a sandbox-style world has left the game lacking in some other areas.
The voice acting is mediocre at best, and the cut scenes can be badly animated, too short and often leave the player wanting to know more about the respective characters than the game bothers to explain.
The graphics similarly suffer at points. The effort taken to input New York City, while thorough, has left the edges of buildings looking a little jagged and close up details of glass and walls often seem fuzzy and un-detailed.
The AI is also only reasonable at best. While the infected are suitably stupid, the Blackwatch troopers, supposedly alert for Alex, only react when his powers are used right in front of their faces- using his parkour and incredible high-jump abilities doesn't seem to concern them, even when the person running up the side of a building is clearly a businesswoman in high-heels whose persona Alex absorbed a few second ago.
However, while a different game would be dragged down by this, the fast gameplay and constant action of Prototype reduce these problems to a distraction at best, as Alex's powers continue to amaze and allow for endless improvisation- the mark of a good sandbox-style game.
Though lacking any kind of multiplayer and repetitive at times, Prototype's spider's web storyline, over-the-top powers, dark anti-hero and the sheer feeling of power the game inspires was more than enough to keep me coming back for hours at a time, even if the AI was laughable and the boss battles sometimes brutally unfair- a flawed diamond, but a diamond nonetheless.
- Brilliant range of powers
- Web of intrigue is an interesting dynamic
- Excellent sandbox-style gameplay
Not so good stuff
- Poor voice acting
- Repetitive at times
- Dodgy graphics up close